Residents say Durban officials’ mismanagement caused a widespread water crisis that lasted more than a week.
In the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, communities in one of the major coronavirus hotspots of KwaZulu-Natal had no water for nearly eight days in January. The eThekwini Municipality says the interruption of water services to the southern and western regions, which include Durban south, were due to technical difficulties at the Northdene 3 pump station between 6 and 15 January 2021. Investigations by city officials found that all three available pumps had failed and needed urgent replacement. As a result, downstream reservoirs could not receive any pumped water.
The reservoirs in Chatsworth 4, Harinagar, Klaarwater, Shallcross, St Wendolins, Birch Road, Washington Heights and Intake Road were affected so that large portions of Chatsworth, Shallcross and Savanna Park, among other areas, went without water for several days.
Shallcross appears to have been the first to suffer a supply issue, as early as 6 January 2021, while other areas further into Chatsworth were cut off over the next three days.
A communiqué was only sent out by eThekwini Municipality on 8 January 2021, explaining that there were issues at the pumps and that processes were in place to procure equipment. However, it said repairs to the pump station could take up to four weeks.
Residents rightfully directed their anger against ward councillors and other officials, demanding that they account for their actions after having apparently learnt about the issues at the Northdene 3 pumps months earlier. Their anger was further fuelled by the discovery of a tender that was sent out on 7 September 2020. The scope of work involved the removal and installation of two medium voltage motors at Northdene 3 pump station as well as electrical repairs. Residents wanted to know why officials who had known about the issue had not acted swiftly, and why they had not followed up on maintenance procedures. A communiqué sent by eThekwini Municipality on 1 January 2021 blamed heavy rainfall on New Year’s Eve for causing damage to equipment at the pump station, but as the crisis unfolded residents grew sceptical of the claim.
City promises that a pump would be temporarily procured from Umgeni Water to get the taps flowing came to nothing, when it was revealed that the borrowed pump could not be used at Northdene 3. News reports quoted councillor Nicole Graham as saying it appeared that the pump was damp as it had not been used recently. Following this chaos, the municipality turned to the Mondi Group to procure a replacement pump.
Work resumed and some areas began…
Read more:: A personal account of the eThekwini wa…